Founding Team Develops Inclusive Mathematics App

Photo: Hilko Aikens / Startup Dock The neurodactics team (from left): Jonas Vier

Photo: Hilko Aikens / Startup Dock The neurodactics team (from left): Jonas Vierth, Torben Rieckmann, and Christopher Hof

Providing first and second graders with digital support for mental arithmetic and understanding mathematical sets-for this endeavor, Torben Rieckmann, Christopher Hof, and Jonas Vierth have been awarded the EXIST Business Start-up Grant and will also receive support from Universität Hamburg. The project stems from research on inclusive digital learning carried out at the Faculty of Education.

It was not only the coronavirus pandemic that showed that digital learning applications would play a more important role in school teaching. A founding team now wants to develop an inclusive mathematics app that enables customized learning both in and outside the classroom. The app will initially be developed for first and second graders. Torben Rieckmann, a research associate at the Faculty of Education who specializes in learning support for children with trisomy 21, came up with the idea.

Rieckmann has already received several awards for his mathildr app, which familiarizes school students with the 0-20 number range using a special representation of sets. The new app should provide children with an understanding of mathematical sets and encourage them to do mental arithmetic. It will be designed to be inclusive and thus suitable for all children irrespective of whether they have dyscalculia, are gifted, or have a disability. The EXIST project, neurodactics, will be implemented by Rieckmann along with Christopher Hof (informatics) and Jonas Vierth (economics). From March, the interdisciplinary team will further develop its idea and found the start-up with the support of Universität Hamburg’s Start-Up Service and beyourpilot. André Zimpel of Universität Hamburg will act as a mentor to the team, offering additional expert support.

"We are delighted with this research-based founding project," says Eva Arnold, dean of the Faculty of Education. "It shows that start-ups also belong to the field of educational science transfer and that concrete solutions for current challenges in the area of digital learning emerge from research."

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy’s EXIST Business Start-up Grant, which is cofinanced through the European Social Fund (ESF), is a 12-month scholarship that supports students, graduates, and researchers at higher education institutions and nonuniversity research institutions who are interested founding a start-up. At Universität Hamburg, founding teams receive support from the Start-Up Service via the University’s Transfer Agency and from beyourpilot. Beyourpilot, the platform for Hamburg higher education institutions and research institutes, promotes founding culture across institutions within the academic sector.

Transfer is one of the 5 performance areas of Universität Hamburg’s flagship university concept, with which it was successful in the Excellence Competition of the Federal and State Governments. Expanding the area of innovation and founding across all disciplines and involving society in research itself (cocreation) are among numerous planned measures.

In their interview , the 3 scholarship holders discuss how the idea came about and the challenges they expect to face in the coming months.

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